Author Archives: ME

REVIEW: The Curve by Jeremy Blachman and Cameron Stracher

curve
Five stars

What’s better than a biting satire about a corrupt for-profit law school aimed at catering to those students who never had a chance (or the genetics, or the connections, or the silver spoon) of getting into Harvard Law? A book about this very subject written by two Harvard Law graduates.

Set in the fictitious Manhattan Law School–which sounds like it could be a serious institution of higher learning, doesn’t it?–the sad reality of the school mirrors its location along the banks of a polluted body of water adjacent to Brooklyn. Adam Wright, a one-time eternal optimist who leaves behind the pressures of a law firm  in order to give a professorship a try, quickly finds there’s nothing Ivy League-ish about his new position. From zombie-students who are just there taking up space to the understanding that sleeping with the students in exchange for a better grade is unacceptable unless the student is a third-year, everything that’s wrong with the legal profession is compressed into one sad law school.

So then, why is the book so darn funny? The authors have done a masterful job of creating a completely surreal environment that quickly draws you in and makes the bizarre seem acceptable. The writing is stellar, of course, but not just good, it’s masterful.

The real horror of the book? Well, let’s just hope works like this one remain firmly entrenched in satire, and don’t ever, ever cross over into plausible reality.

 

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REVIEW: The Anxious Lawyer by Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford

Lawyer

Five Stars

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” — Dick the Butcher, Henry VI by William Shakespeare

With famous quotes like that one floating around, it’s no wonder that members of the esteemed legal profession need a little encouragement now and then. Sadly, the above quote is NOT disparaging lawyers or expressing Shakespeare’s true thoughts on the profession; the character who speaks it is actually saying that lawyers and judges are the mighty hand that holds justice–and therefore, society–together, and that the only way to achieve their goals of utter lawlessness will be to get rid of every last attorney.

But that doesn’t stop the quote from appearing on coffee mugs, or stop people from making shark jokes whenever lawyers are in the room. One noted cafe across from a Southern courthouse had a permanent sign in the window that advertised “chum” as the special of the day.

Poor lawyers…they really do want to be a force for good, but their role in society is often a thankless one.

But the best thing about The Anxious Lawyer by Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford is that anyone–shark profession or not–can benefit from the information on centering yourself, finding and relying on an air of gratitude every day, and incorporating meditation into your daily regimen. While it bills itself as an eight-week course to a “joyful and satisfying law practice,” its benefits will go on far past those mere two months, and can improve anyone’s daily life, work place relationships, and job satisfaction.

One of the most crucial perceptions that the authors address is also the most incriminating. Imagine walking into a lawyer’s office, knowing that your life may very well hang in the balance due to criminal charges, an insurmountable lawsuit you face, or other grave situation, and seeing a yoga mat spread out on the floor, incense burning on a nearby table, and whale song music playing softly through hidden speakers. You’ll probably back away slowly, then bolt for the nearest law practice that isn’t run by hippies.

Yet, medical professionals and speakers alike have supported the benefits of meditation for so long that everyone from preschools to prisons are incorporating yoga and deep breathing time into their daily routines. So why shouldn’t the people who stand before a judge and argue for our best interests also benefit from a healthy body and a clear, centered mind? Meditation should be a requirement for high-stakes professions, not the butt of a joke. Hopefully works like this one will bring that notion into the mainstream.

New Content by JK Rowling Posted on Pottermore

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Author extraordinaire JK Rowling has posted new writing over at her site, Pottermore, entitled,  ‘Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’. Much like fans could be sorted into their Hogwarts’ houses and be issued their perfect wands, users will find similar fun through the Ilvermorny School.

The Ilvermorny School is the US-based contingent of Harry Potter’s wizarding world. Much like the fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, saw the convergence of multiple wizarding schools from outside the UK, Ilvermorny is the previously-unrepresented school located on Mount Greylock in Massachusetts.

The school’s houses are based on mythical creatures’ names instead of the four founders, as Hogwarts was. The houses are Thunderbird, Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie, and Wampus.

To read the latest short story (found here) or to play along in the house sorting fun, visit Pottermore.com and sign in.

REVIEW: Return to Lan Darr by Anderson Atlas

Capture

Five stars

We recently reviewed book one in the Heroes of Distant Planets series by Anderson Atlas, so it was a pleasure to read a preview copy of the second book in the series. While too many action/adventure titles aimed at middle grade and “younger” young adult audiences seem to focus on the “movie-worthy” adventure–meaning the Hollywood-esque action series, as if the author wrote it with a movie franchise in mind–it’s refreshing to read a series that actually works in the crucial world building that so many fantasy fans crave.

Both of Atlas’ books have relied heavily on the type of characterizations that made books like A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia, and even the Harry Potter series so popular with readers. The main characters not only travels to far off places, but he meets a widely varied cast of alien creatures in every new location. The creatures themselves not only have full enough physical descriptions to hold the readers’ interest, but they have their own backstory and struggles woven in.

Speaking of struggles, Return to Lan Darr opened with one of the most realistic and timely portrayals of modern-day teen problems that any book has presented in a long time. It’s particularly upsetting to read ridiculous or outdated portrayals of bullying, and the concept that a handicapped student (the main character was paralyzed in the car accident that killed his parents) is “untouchable” when it comes to bullying is horrifically inaccurate. School systems and administrators like to tell themselves that any student with special needs is somehow safe from that kind of thing–mostly because we like to tell ourselves that adults would never bully a handicapped person, so therefore kids would be kind enough to leave him alone–but as Atlas clearly demonstrates, it is simply not true. After Allan’s diary where he writes down his adventures on Lan Darr (from book one) is stolen and passed around the entire school via a Facebook-like social media site, he has more incentive than ever to try to get back to the planet and fight Jibbawk in order to save his new friends.

Return to Lan Darr will be available summer 2016.

Sourcebooks Partners with Natl Geographic on Interactive Kids’ Books

If we could spend a whole day with any entity in the publishing industry, it would be the powerhouse team at Sourcebooks. Great company, great vision, great willingness to embrace all sorts of change in the book business…yeah, awesome. What really sets them apart is the fact that other publishing houses both big and small are imploding from their own inability to grab a vision and go with it, while Sourcebooks is reshaping everything from the gift book market to the education sphere.

Take a look at their latest announcement here:

National Geographic Kids and Put Me In The Story™ Ignite Children’s Curiosity

in New Personalized Books

Win a Trip to the San Diego Zoo in the Little Explorer Drawing Contest

Naperville, IL, May 16, 2016—Put Me In The Story™, the #1 personalized books site in the United States, is partnering with National Geographic Kids to create two personalized educational books for kids—National Geographic Little Kids Book of Dinosaurs and National Geographic Little Kids Book of Animals, available now on PutMeInTheStory.com.

“Put Me In The Story is an ideal partnership, offering a new and creative way for kids to interact with our content,” said Erica Green, vice president and editorial director at National Geographic Kids Books.

In National Geographic Little Kids Book of Dinosaurs and National Geographic Little Kids Book of Animals, children will learn about their favorite animals and dinosaurs and be asked direct questions to help them connect, relate to, and learn about each creature.

“We are delighted to begin this partnership with National Geographic Kids,” said Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks, Inc., which created Put Me In The Story. “Their dedication to the education of children is something we treasure. Together, we have created books that will ignite children’s curiosity and fascination with animals, nature, and the world through reading.”

Each book can be personalized with a child’s name on the cover and throughout the book, photos, and a dedication message. Plus, at the end, kids can fill out a personalized activities section about their favorite animals or dinosaurs.

Put Me In The Story and National Geographic Kids are celebrating the launch of the new books with the Little Explorer Drawing Contest. Parents can visit the contest page to enter and download a free coloring page. They can also generate extra contest entries by sharing their child’s coloring pages using the hashtag #ColorAndExplore or by uploading the drawing directly on the contest page.

The Grand Prize winner will receive a four-day, three-night trip for a family of four to San Diego to visit the San Diego Zoo and celebrate the zoo’s 100-year anniversary, as well as copies of the National Geographic Kids personalized books. Two runners-up will receive personalized books and one-year subscriptions to National Geographic and National Geographic Kids magazines. Contest begins May 16 and ends June 17.

Big Book Club News from OverDrive

OverDrive, the powerhouse behind ebooks and other forms of digital media making their way into public and school libraries, are one of our favorite companies. They are risk-takers, and along with a fey key companies (looking at you, Sourcebooks!) they are always willing to experiment in order to make books and media available to all. On top of that, they’re library gurus, and libraries need all of the support network they can get.

Take a look at today’s press announcement from OverDrive concerning the future of book clubs in the digital age:

Public Libraries Launch Next Chapter of Book Clubs
Digital Book Clubs increase visibility, community engagement by reaching more readers

CLEVELAND — May 9, 2016 – You know that feeling: you finish a good book and you just have to talk about it with someone. It’s one of the reasons why Book Clubs have become extremely popular. Now, as eBooks are available from public libraries, readers are joining the next chapter of Book Clubs, Digital Book Clubs to discuss the next great read. Public libraries across the country are hosting and promoting a digital version of a local Book Club with simultaneous access to eBooks and audiobooks, enabling dozens of “city read” and “one-book, one community” programs.

According to BookBrowse, 22 percent of readers belong to at least one digital Book Club with friends and family (Book Clubs in the USA, July 2015). OverDrive is maximizing the scalability of digital by supporting citywide and global digital book clubs through public libraries. New York Public Library is using their eBook collection for the Gracie Book Club where First Lady Chirlane McCray will collaborate with authors to select six books to read and discuss with fellow New Yorkers over the next year. The first book, Bright Lines (Penguin Random House) will be discussed by the city of New York on Tuesday, May 17th. The Gracie Book Club was launched earlier this year to begin a citywide conversation on the diverse experiences of New York City’s many communities as depicted through the lens of literature.

Last month, OverDrive helped Cityread London (UK) go digital by working with Canongate to offer Ten Days in eBook format to participating libraries in London for the April 2016 program. Additionally, OverDrive works with publishers and thousands of libraries and schools three times a year for Big Library Read, a global Digital Book Club that connects millions of readers around the world with the same eBook from their local library. These programs have reached thousands in the communities they serve and have increased visibility, reach and engagement for the selected digital book.

Publishers are capitalizing on this growing trend by working with libraries to put authors’ works in the hands of more readers – digitally. To enable the discovery and readership of popular content and maximize the number of readers served, libraries are taking advantage of publishers’ flexible digital access models on the OverDrive platform, such as per-unit or simultaneous use to support community reading programs.

Digital Book Clubs offer a powerful marketing opportunity for authors and publishers. Promoting an eBook or audiobook to traditional Book Clubs puts that book in the hands of new readers and helps publishers and authors engage and cultivate loyalty among a base of readers. Public libraries across the globe have built engaging campaigns to promote these successful Digital Book Clubs, including dedicated websites, organized group discussions and even special author
appearances, which are helping publishers and authors expand discovery and reach and engage more readers.

Book Review: Surviving the Improbable Quest (Heroes of Distant Planets Book 1)

Anderson

Five Stars:

There’s a serious problem in middle grade fiction, or at least the fiction that is made available to students under the guise of teaching them something. It tends to be watered down or outdated or otherwise out of reach. The readability (in terms of a Fry Readability Formula) too often equates easy to read with “boring,” as if we can’t take a lower level vocabulary and make it interesting or exciting. The flip side is that books with a higher interest level and greater adventure reach tend to have elitist vocabulary levels, as if this book isn’t for you if you don’t already read on a tenth grade level.

Fortunately, Anderson Atlas’ book addresses that very real need. It’s easy to assume from the intro paragraph here that it has a dumbed-down vocabulary, but that’s far from it. It’s more like an incredibly natural vocabulary level, as if the author actually knows some people in the age range of his intended audience (shock and surprise…far too many authors who strive to write for middle grade or young adult readers don’t actually KNOW any; instead, they write the way they think those people SHOULD talk/read).

In Atlas’ book, there are some key issues addressed that MG readers often face: family dynamics, struggles in school, the need to fit in. More importantly, the author has addressed a serious lack in MG adventure books, and that’s the elusive “inclusive” character. The MC, Allan, is a paraplegic whose accident has also left him unable to speak due to the trauma. Instead of being a forced scenario in which the character is in a wheelchair just to prove that he’s “just like us!” this is a character who has faced events that many people never recover from. Truthfully, Allan seems on the surface as if he might not want to recover from it, either.

Instead of being a very fake characteristic for our story’s lead, his physical status is actually crucial to the plot. At times a cross between Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Allan meets a cast of diverse alien characters and is thrown into one dangerous scenario after another. Unlike those other books, Allan’s journey is dark and dangerous and filled with slave traders and meat-eaters named Jibbawk who apparently favor tender humans.

There is no shortage of bizarrely dangerous books aimed at a ten and up audience right now, but they lack something that Improbabey Quest has: wholly fictionalized world building that leads to adventure instead of just survival. Don’t get me wrong, The Hunger Games was fantastic, but it’s too plausible for a younger audience. The ability to suspend all plausibility is what makes this a work of fantasy, and therefore, a “safe” but intriguing read.

Find it here in print and digital.

REVIEW: The Best Goodbye by Abbi Glines

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Four Stars

I don’t know how Glines does it, but somehow she manages to keep all the various characters and love triangles and parenting relationships straight in the seaside town of Rosemary Beach! I’d have to have a map and a secret decoder ring handy just to keep everyone straight, and to make sure I wasn’t suddenly pairing off a biological brother and sister (although there are certain fetish genres for that…ewwwwww).

In The Best Goodbye, Glines is at it again when it comes to spinning a fun, sexy, yet completely implausible escape read. I know readers–even romance readers–who would turn up their noses at the highly unlikely stories coming out of this quaint yet dark little town, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? If I wanted to read a book about a normal guy and a normal girl who do normal things and happen to fall in love in a normal way, those books are a dime a dozen.

Glines’ specialty is the “out there” style of romance, and this one doesn’t fail to deliver in that regard. In this instance, River Kipling meets Rose Henderson, and (no spoilers!) you’ll just have to see it for yourself to find out what makes this one so unrealistic but so entertaining at the same time!

REVIEW: Two Titles by VC Andrews

I absolutely DEVOURED VC Andrews’ books when I was in high school, and it’s interesting to see them being re-released for a whole new generation of readers to enjoy. Two of them in particular–My Sweet Audrina and Sage’s Eyes–have just come out from Simon & Schuster, and best of all, Audrina is being formatted for television film by Lifetime Studios!

At the time that I first read a VC Andrews book, it got the “Twilight” treatment for me. No, it didn’t include bizarrely sparkly paranormal creatures. The Twilight treatment is the phenomenon that occurs when there is absolutely nothing like this book anywhere, ever. I hesitate to credit The Twilight Saga with the current fascination with YA lit, but you have to admit that it opened doors in a way that no books have done in ages. When I was a young teenager, the most “out there” things we had to read were books about Margaret getting her period and Deenie having to wear a back brace for scoliosis. Judy Blume was considered fascinating, even off-limits. When Twilight (and the books that followed in that same time frame) came along, adults ate them up because they weren’t like anything we’d had when we were kids.

Except we had VC Andrews. She wrote such intensely different stuff that far too many readers–young and old alike–didn’t get the chance to meet her strangely twisted plots. Her heroes and villains were so incredible that it’s no wonder a whole new audience has opened up for them.

Audrina – Where do I even begin? Crazy parents, a girl who’s been brainwashed into believing she’s practically a baby, a horrible crime that happened so long ago but still hurts like it was yesterday… Andrews’ unbelievable tales hit a lot more close to home than many readers may want to think.

Sage’s Eyes – Is she a witch? If not, why does she have the strange dreams, and why do her parents watch her so closely for any of the telltale signs? Why does the boy at school seem to understand everything she’s going through in a bizarre, connected way? In true Andrews’ fashion, you will NOT see this ending coming.

Be sure to check out both of these titles, available now where books are sold.

 

COVER REVEAL: In the Company of the Dead by Ciara Ballentine

We are pleased to present the cover art for upcoming epic fantasy, In the Company of the Dead.

InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL

Genre: Epic Fantasy/Romantic Fantasy

Release Date: 25 April 2016

Credit is due to the cover artist, Sam Keiser.

About the Book

Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.

Chosen as a five year old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her murdered parents. Her duties leave her no time to pursue the man responsible, until both her work and revenge lead to the same place—the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris is serving out his exile for striking his prince.

Lyram is third in line for the throne, and when the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently. Ellaeva’s arrival brings hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead she hunts the castle for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.

Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.

What to be notified as soon as the book is released? Sign-up to the newsletter here!

About the Author

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic.

She began her first attempts at the craft of writing in 1992, culminating in the publication of her debut work, Confronting the Demon, in 2013. Her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing is In the Company of the Dead.

She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world – how hard can it really be? If she could be anything, she’d choose a dragon, but if she is honest she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. – both the good and the bad. She is a browncoat, a saltgunner, a Whedonite, a Sherlockian, a Ringer and a Whovian… OK, most major geek fandoms. Her alignment is chaotic good. She is an INTJ.

Ciara lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, her two daughters, and a growing menagerie of animals that unfortunately includes no dragons.

Twitter: @CiaraBallintyne

Facebook: http://facebook.com/CiaraBallintyne

Website: http://ciaraballintyne.com

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